Two car bomb blasts have killed at least 32 people, and injured dozens more in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Saturday’s car bombs exploded near Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, scattering body parts and clothing along a route used by pilgrims marking the anniversary of the death of Shia Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.
The first car bomb exploded at about 09:15GMT, 12:15pm local time, on a highway near Shuala in north Baghdad, an interior ministry official said.
Forteen people were killed and 32 were injured, the official said.
The Baghdad Operations Command said in a statement that the first attack was a suicide bombing, and that security forces had arrested a man who accompanied the bomber but got out of the vehicle before the explosion.
Four burned cars and two minibuses, one of which was completely destroyed, were reported at the scene of first blast, an AFP news agency reporter said.
“We rushed to the scene, there were dismembered bodies, shoes, plastic bags, women’s robes left all around, and people were screaming everywhere,” said Ahmed Maati, a policeman working nearby.
The second car bomb exploded at the Aden intersection near Kadhimiyah about two hours later, killing 18 people and wounding 36.
A police lieutenant at the scene of the second blast said that it was also a suicide bombing that hit a minibus carrying pilgrims.
A medical source said Baghdad hospitals had received nine bodies and 47 wounded people from the first attack, and 25 bodies and 105 wounded from the second.
Car parts were blown more than 100 metres from the site.
“We took many people out from the buses, and all of them were burned,” one man who had been serving water to pilgrims said, declining to give his name.
Some people were screaming, while others appeared to be dead, he said. “It was terrible. I will never be able to forget this scene.”
“I saw the explosion and… things were thrown in every direction,” said another man from a tent near the site of the second blast.
“We went to help the victims and there were many killed and wounded,” he said.
The latest attacks came after a wave of 22 co-ordinated explosions and gun attacks across the country on Wednesday killed about 72 people and wounded more than 250 people in the worst single day of violence since US troops left the country in December.
The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda affiliate, posted messages online saying it was behind Wednesday’s bombings, describing the attacks as a “blessed Wednesday invasion”.
The group said they were a blow to the Iraqi government led by a Shia prime minister in coalition with Sunni and Kurdish parties.
Wednesday’s bombs also hit Kurdish political offices and army patrols.
The annual commemorations underway culminate on Saturday with hundreds of thousands converging on the Baghdad shrine where the imam is buried.
Shia pilgrimages were prohibited under the rule of Saddam Hussein, but they have attracted huge numbers of people in the years since his overthrow in 2003.
Along with the security forces, the Shia majority in Iraq has been a main target of Sunni Arab armed groups since the fall of Saddam’s Sunni-dominated regime.
Violence has declined dramatically since the 2006-2007 peak of sectarian bloodshed, but attacks remain common, especially in Baghdad.